The Boston Red Sox clinched the AL East title on Friday, getting seven strong innings from Jon Lester to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-3 and eliminate Tampa Bay from the division race.
One night after securing their first playoff appearance since 2009, the Red Sox added their first division title since 2007.
Lester (15-8) allowed one run on five hits and two walks, striking out eight to win for the seventh time in nine decisions. It was his 100th career victory.
Dustin Pedroia had three hits for the Red Sox, who have won 19 of their last 25.
In the National League, the Atlanta Braves closed in on the NL East division title with a 9-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
Chris Johnson went 3 for 4 with a home run for the Braves, who reduced their magic number to win the title to one.
The Braves broke open a tie game in the top of the ninth with four runs. Brian McCann and Johnson had RBI singles, and Andrelton Simmons followed with a two-run double.
The Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics moved closer to winning their AL divisions, as well.
Max Scherzer became baseball’s first 20-game winner, pitching through a rainy six innings to help Detroit defeat the Chicago White Sox 12-5.
Scherzer (20-3) was making his fifth attempt to win No. 20. He had two losses and two no-decisions in his previous four starts. Torii Hunter had four hits for Detroit, and Victor Martinez homered.
The AL Central division-leading Tigers lowered their magic number to eliminate second-place Cleveland to three.
In Oakland, California, Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson homered, Alberto Callaspo had two hits and drove in two runs, and Bartolo Colon pitched six shutout innings as Oakland beat Minnesota 11-0.
Josh Reddick had two hits and also drove in a run for the A’s, who won for the eighth time in 10 games.
In the crowded AL wild-card race, the Tampa Bay Rays took over sole possession of the top spot with a 5-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in 18 innings, a game that lasted 6 hours, 54 minutes — a record for both clubs.
David DeJesus ended the marathon game with a one-out RBI single in the 18th after Desmond Jennings got on base with a double off Bud Norris (10-12). He was the Orioles’ 10th pitcher and one of an MLB record 21 used in the game.
The Cleveland Indians also improved their playoff positioning with a 2-1 win over the Houston Astros in a rain-shortened game.
The Indians, who entered the night trailing both Tampa Bay and Texas by one-half game for a wild-card spot, scored an unearned run in the second and fourth innings off Brett Oberholtzer (4-4).
The Texas Rangers, meanwhile, dropped a half-game behind the Indians with a 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
Neftali Feliz walked Alcides Escobar on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning to lead Kansas City to victory.
The New York Yankees kept their faint playoff hopes alive with a 5-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants on a night when Alex Rodriguez set a Major League Baseball record with his 24th career grand slam, passing Lou Gehrig for the most all-time.
Rodriguez’s slam helped CC Sabathia (14-13) beat Tim Lincecum in a matchup of former Cy Young Award-winners having subpar seasons.
In NL games with post-season implications, Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh 6-5 in 10 innings to pull even with the Pirates for second place in the NL Central division and the top spot in the wild-card race.
Joey Votto homered off Kyle Farnsworth in the 10th inning for Cincinnati, who got three unearned runs in the ninth to tie the game.
Cincinnati pushed across the three runs off closer Mark Melancon to tie it and Votto won it an inning later with his 24th homer.
The St Louis Cardinals, meanwhile, solidified their hold on the division with a 7-6 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in 10 innings.
Carlos Beltran’s 10th-inning sacrifice fly scored Kolten Wong to give the Cardinals the win and open up a two-game lead over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
Former Brewers closer John Axford (7-7) picked up the win, while Carlos Martinez got his first save of the year for the Cardinals.
The Washington Nationals also kept their slim wild-card chances alive with a 8-0 win over the Miami Marlins.
Jordan Zimmermann pitched a two-hitter and picked up his NL-leading 19th win for the Nationals, who trail Cincinnati and Pittsburgh by five games with nine to play for the NL’s second wild-card berth.
In other games, the New York Mets got a homer from David Wright in his return to the lineup as they handled the Philadelphia Phillies 6-4.
Wright’s homer moved him past Mike Piazza into second on the club’s career list with 221 homers. Darryl Strawberry is No. 1 with 252.
Colorado’s Jhoulys Chacin tossed six shaky innings and helped himself with his first career home run as the Rockies beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-4.
The San Diego Padres beat the NL West division champion Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0, with all of the Dodgers’ regulars resting for the playoffs.
And the Los Angeles Angels’ Chris Iannetta drove in Kole Calhoun with a two-out hit in the 11th inning to rally past the Seattle Mariners 3-2.